A Dynamic Philanthropist
Aside from being a businessman, Ron Bruder is also known for philanthropic work in the area of promoting education. He is the founder of Education for Employment, an organization that seeks to help young people in the Middle East find good paying jobs by assisting them through various programs, such as language lessons, self-esteem sessions, and teaching them interview techniques.
Ron’s Early Life Biography
Ron Bruder was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1948, the child of two Jewish parents. Ron’s father was an optometrist, while his mother was a remedial reading teacher. Their family descended from Jewish immigrants who settled in the United States during the early to mid–20th century. Being a Jew of the more unorthodox type, Ron became learned in Jewish customs at an early age, and was deeply connected with his family.
In some of the interviews made with him, Ron would often state that having a Jewish background greatly influenced his character, especially in the area of dealing with people in terms of business. This also made him a family guy who is deeply connected with his relatives.
At a young age, Ron already showed a lot of potential in doing business. Although he had a fairly average childhood, Ron was not like many of the children of his age. His teachers were quite amazed at how quickly Ron can pick up lessons and how he can learn with little supervision. By the time Ron was in high school, he became a good speaker and entrepreneur by doing part-time jobs while studying.
Ron, a Cunning Salesman
When he was 17 years old, Ron worked as an encyclopedia salesman. After a few weeks of getting used to his work, Ron found a better method of selling them by hiring “welfare mothers to do phone solicitations and employ their children to stuff envelopes through doorways all over Brooklyn.”
Right before leaving high school, Ron took an interest in management and economics and read a lot of books regarding these subjects. After graduating from high school, Ron entered Shimer College in Illinois to study economics. After his family moved to New York, Ron enrolled at Adelphi College to continue pursuing his degree in Economics. In 1968, Ron received his bachelor’s degree and applied at New York University.
He graduated with high marks and earned his Master’s Degree in Business Administration. While studying at Iona College for his Post Master’s degree in Accounting and Taxation, Ron took several part-time jobs to further increase his knowledge in business. One of his first endeavors after getting his post master’s degree was in the field of real estate, where he participated in converting an electric generating plant for residential use in Lower Manhattan.
The Brookhill Group and Gynetech Laboratories Limited
Ron spent the next few years working for several real estate firms, gradually building his reputation as one of the best in the industry. In 1977, he founded the Brookhill Group, a real estate company focused on building and turning shopping centers and reclaiming brownfields for re-use. From its inception, Brookhill has grown into one of the largest companies in the United States and a leader in the area of real estate.
One of the company’s first accomplishments was the redevelopment of several shopping malls. Aside from his real estate endeavours, Ron also participated in creating a medical technology company, which he named Gynetech Laboratories Limited, focused on research regarding issues such as birth control and stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and HIV. Ron also started an oil-and-gas business and was able to successfully open several branches.
After successfully growing the businesses that he started, he partnered with Dames and Moore, a multi-billion dollar engineering company, to further invest in brownfields. He developed a method of getting potential buyers to invest in tainted properties by capping the clean-up costs and securitizing the debt. Because of this, Brookhill Group became one of the largest buyers of distressed properties in the United States, gaining properties in over 21 states in an unprecedented pace.
Ron’s success in business was so much that he quickly became one of the wealthiest investors in the country. He was also a very loving father to his family, actively taking part in his children’s lives and welfare. For many years, Ron deeply engaged himself in growing his business, investing in many potential fields. He was well-known by his employees and business partners for having a strict sense of business ethics.
Twin Tower Scare
The year 2001 brought a traumatic and life changing experience for Ron. In September, during the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Ron’s eldest daughter Jessica was working in a building just a few blocks away from the twin towers. Upon hearing the attacks, Ron immediately phoned his daughter in New York to know if she was fine. After getting no answer, Ron feared for Jessica’s safety and immediately planned to book a plane to fly to New York. It was until a few hours later that Ron found out that Jessica got out of the building and survived the event.
That day marked the greatest change in Ron Bruder’s life. He has always been extremely successful in his business and real estate ventures, making him a very important person, but this incident convicted Ron to have a “significance” that was far more than being a rich guy—he wanted to do something about the problem and make “a real impact” in the lives of the people. He wanted to understand the connection between terrorism and the economic situations in the countries where the terrorists allegedly come from since it was the field that he specialized in.
The Founding of the Education for Employment Foundation
Ron spent the next few years travelling throughout the Middle East and North Africa, doing research and looking for ways to help. He worked with numerous experts and business owners in these regions to find and investigate entrepreneurial responses to overcome the two key challenges that these regions have: having a large youth population and having the highest unemployment record in the world.
Working from his principle that stable societies can only be built if the people have jobs and good economic opportunities, Ron soon learned that there was a serious need for programs that taught these North African and Middle East youths skills that they could use in the workplace; even skills that would appear to be very basic, such as interview etiquette, responding to criticism or proper dress code.
"I was very lucky in my life. Kids I meet in the Middle East have the same intellect and drive as I had, but don't have the same opportunities...We can make a radical difference to their lives. Once they have a job, they feel part of society. They can become a breadwinner and maybe support eight or nine people, including their siblings."
After an extensive research, Ron, with the help of Brookings Institution, finally decided to establish the Education for Employment Foundation in 2002. And although founding the organization cost ten million dollars, Ron had no qualms about providing the finances and gave the required amount right from his own savings.
The very first office was opened in Washington D.C., and was used to be the base of operations to send out numerous personnel that would coordinate with local organizations in North Africa and the Middle East to establish satellite offices.
Ron worked extensively to promote his organization’s aim, which was to help North African and Middle Eastern graduates to find jobs more easily through their training programs. After conducting various training sessions and meeting with different local organization leaders, the first office in the Middle East was finally established in 2005 in Jordan. Initially, the office only taught at-risk youth how to repair air-conditioning units, but after a few months the curriculum grew and various programs were introduced to give the youth a wider range of selection.
The following year, another office was opened in the Gaza Strip, which taught engineering graduates to be construction managers. What made the Education for Employment Foundation different from other organizations of the same kind was that it worked on an “as needed” basis, which meant that they provided training programs based on what the demand for that specific place was.
Ron Bruder’s Education for Employment Foundation Helps 8,000 Youths
From its inception, Ron’s Education for Employment has established offices in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East, such as Egypt, Morocco and Yemen, with a new office in Tunisia opening soon. The organization has also trained over 5,000 youth and has placed over 3,000 trainees in jobs, with another 5,000 projected in the year 2013. Ron Bruder has been actively monitoring and participating in the affairs of the EFE, often the one giving training courses to the youths whenever he can.
Due to actively involving himself in his philanthropic work, Ron has become one of the major voices in the area of youth unemployment in North Africa and the Middle East. He was once chosen to be the Council on Foreign Relations delegate to the Jeddah Economic Forum and also became a contributor to the US-Islamic World Forum held in Qatar.
During his visits, he often stressed the importance of getting the youth preoccupied by giving young people jobs to help shift their interest away from radical religious activities, such as terrorism. Ron has also been invited to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, an organization that seeks to promote innovative solutions to reduce the world’s most pressing problems, and the United Nations.
In 2012, Ron attended the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, and was named Schwab Foundation Global Social Entrepreneur for his efforts in establishing and working with the Employment for Education foundation.
Ron is still actively participating in the EFE and is helping them create new programs to cope with the ever-changing economic and societal trends.
Ron Bruder’s life isn’t just an inspirational story of a person engaged in charitable work—his life is an example of someone who is willing to cross boundaries to devote both his life and career into making this world a better place to live.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Education for Employment
- Clinton Global Initiative
- The Drosos Foundation
- Young Presidents Organization
- United Nations Development Programme
- International Youth Foundation
- The U.S. Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative
- The Abraaj Group
- Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
Awards and Achievements
- 2007: Received the Innovator in Coexistence Award from the Americans for Informed Democracy
- 2010: Received the Amy and Tony Polak Distinguished Advocate Award
- 2011: Named as one of the 100 Most Influential People by TIME Magazine
- 2012: Named a Schwab Foundation Global Social Entrepreneur